Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
November 14, 2008
Dr. Johnny M. Hunt
President, Southern Baptist Convention
First Baptist Church of Woodstock
11905 Hwy 92
Woodstock , GA 30188
Via U.S. mail certified # 700 6081 00003 6909 9648
Dear Dr. Hunt:
With a change in leadership comes a new opportunity.
As president of the Southern Baptist Convention, you now have the opportunity to show genuine leadership on the issue of clergy sex abuse and cover-ups. This may be one of the greatest leadership challenges in the history of Southern Baptists.
Please use your tenure to prod the Executive Committee toward taking real and meaningful action to rid the ranks of Baptist clergy predators and to minister to those who have been wounded by Baptist clergy.
We have heard the oft-repeated explanation that denominational leaders are powerless because Baptist churches are autonomous. However, if indeed denominational leaders lack the power to actually remove credibly accused clergy child molesters from ministry (as other faith groups do), then this would be all the more reason why denominational leaders must at least provide information to those who do carry the power. Denominational leaders must assure that Southern Baptist congregants are provided with objective, professional, trustworthy information so that they can make responsible decisions about their ministers.
As a July 10 Tennessean editorial stated: "The very fact that Baptist churches are autonomous signals that they need the information that the convention could provide."
The only way people in the pews will find out about clergy child molesters is if victims feel safe in reporting them. And victims are never going to feel safe if they have to report abuse by going to the church of the accused minister. Telling clergy victims to "go to the church" is like telling them to go to the den of the wolf who savaged them. It is cruel to the victim and unproductive toward the end of protecting others.
This denomination needs to provide (1) a safe and welcoming place for victims to report clergy sex abuse, (2) an objective, professionally-trained panel for responsibly assessing victims' abuse reports, and (3) an efficient means of assuring that the assessment information reaches people in the pews -- i.e., a database.
If there is to be an end to the scourge of Baptist clergy sex abuse and cover-ups, it will require a strong cooperative effort with leadership at the highest levels. Please make this your top priority. Will you schedule a meeting with us to discuss this urgent need in Southern Baptist life?
SNAP National Director
(314) 566-9790 / SNAPclohessy@aol.com
SNAP Baptist Outreach Director